Lawrence University is mourning the loss of Congressman John Lewis, an iconic figure who tirelessly fought for civil rights and racial justice. He taught us, the nation and the world about leadership and vision and showed us what it means to be a courageous champion of human and civil rights.
Lewis passed away late Friday following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
Lawrence had a long relationship with the civil rights pioneer and longtime congressman. In June 2015, the school awarded Lewis an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, and Lewis delivered the spring Commencement address, his third visit to the campus.
“We try to prepare each of our students for a life full of meaning, success, and consequence; Congressman Lewis provided a beautiful model of such a life each time he joined us on campus,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “We will miss his voice, spirit, and enduring pursuit of equity.”
Lewis first visited Lawrence in April 1964 as head field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He spoke at a campus-sponsored Civil Rights Week event.
He would return in February 2005 to deliver a convocation address in Memorial Chapel.
When he returned in 2015, his story had been well chronicled, from the injuries he sustained in the historic 1965 march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery to his leadership in the civil rights movement to his rise as an influential member of Congress, serving the state of Georgia for 34 years.
He was joined in the 2015 visit to Lawrence by Appleton native and fellow Freedom Rider James Zwerg.
In his Commencement address, Lewis told the graduates and others who had gathered on the Main Hall Green that we need to embrace unity, no matter our ethnic background, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.
“We are one people, we are one family, we are one house,” he said. “We are brothers and sisters.”
He told the graduates they have a moral obligation to speak up against discrimination, encouraging them to “get in good trouble” in making the United States — and the communities in which they live — more compassionate and more inclusive.
“You can do it,” he said. “You must do it. Not just for yourselves but for generations yet unborn.”
Senegal native Aly Wane, an undocumented organizer living in Syracuse, N.Y., shares his message for the need to fight inequality in all its forms as the keynote speaker at the 27th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. community celebration.
Focusing on the need for a better understanding of the concept of citizenship and global citizenship, Wane will deliver the address “Those Who Have Been Left Out.” The celebration commemorating Dr. King’s life and legacy will be held Monday, Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public and will include a sign language interpreter.
Two community members will be honored during the celebration with a reception immediately following the program in Shattuck Hall 163.
Wane’s message is inspired by a passage from a 1966 speech in which King said, “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. I choose to live for those who find themselves seeing life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying, ‘Do something for others.’”
Wane, whose work is at the intersection of race and migration, is active with a variety of organizations, working with the Syracuse Peace Council, the country’s oldest grassroots antiwar group, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the Undocumented and Black Network and the Black Immigration Network.
In a 2017 interview with The Progressive, Wane spoke of the need to make the immigration conversation a racial justice conversation.
“When folks still think about undocumented folks, they still think about Latinos,” Wane told the magazine. “I don’t want to say ‘privilege’ that I have had, but I have had U.S. citizen Latino friends stopped by Border Patrol and ICE and I have been able to get away with it because I don’t look Latino. Of course, I am black and therefore I am always getting stopped by cops anyway. But, I think that it would be a lie to have an analysis of the immigration system that doesn’t speak very directly about the influence of race in this country.”
Pa Lee Moua, associate dean of students for diversity at Lawrence, said the theme of this year’s community celebration, “Those Who Have Been Left Out,” struck a personal chord with her.
“As a refugee child, adapting to another world was extremely hard — hard on my family, myself and my outlook on the future,” said Moua, a member of the MLK celebration planning committee. “As much as I wanted to adapt, I did not want to change who I was in order to be accepted by others. No one should judge another person, assumptions create exclusions. When you choose to exclude others, you create additional unnecessary barriers and burdens for them to carry, sometimes for a lifetime. Therefore, before you act, think about your actions. The smallest act of kindness goes a long way. As Dr. King once said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’”
Wane, 41, who considers himself a global citizen, is the son of a Muslim father from Senegal and a Catholic mother from Mali, who met each other while studying in France. They separated when Wane was young and his father passed away at the age of 38. He came to the United States when he was almost nine with his mother after she landed a position with the United Nations Development Program.
He’s lived in Rwanda and Gabon with his mother who was on assignments there before he returned to the U.S. when he was 13. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2001 from Le Moyne College in Syracuse.
His older sister and only living relative, who was able to obtain H-1B status through her work, established permanent residency and eventual citizenship, is sponsoring Wane for legalization, a process that could take 10 years.
Yee Lee Vue, the adult services engagement librarian at the Appleton Public Library, will be recognized as the 24th recipient of the Jane LaChapelle McCarty Community Leader Award.
Maysa Pasayes, manager, Scholars for Success program, Diversity and Inclusion Services at Fox Valley Technical College, will be presented the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Educator Award.
The celebration also will feature student winners of the annual MLK essay contest reading their entries. This year’s winning student essayists are:
• Portia Hah, 3rd grade, Woodland Elementary School
• Kate Jannette, 4th grade, St. Francis Xavier Elementary School
• La Lee Yang, 8th grade, James Madison Middle School
The celebration will include a music performances by Anthony Gonzalez, B-Lilly and the Soul Brothers and university organist Kathrine Handford.
Prior to the evening celebration, members of the Lawrence community will make the MLK holiday a day of service by participating in a variety of volunteer activities throughout the Fox Cities, including sorting and tagging items at Appleton’s Bethesda Thrift Store, providing arts programming with students at the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley, packaging, labeling, sorting at the Feeding America food bank and weeding, planting and prepping beds in hoop houses at Riverview Gardens.
In addition to the off-campus efforts, student spend part of the day involved with on-campus service projects including baking treats for local shelters,
making blankets for community members without housing, writing letters of encouragement to patients going through chemotherapy, creating dog toys and treats for animals at local shelters and making laundry detergent for a local shelter.
About Lawrence University Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.
Although Lawrence University classes won’t be held Jan. 18 on the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 300 students will make it “a day on, not a day off” by engaging in 18 community service projects.
Lawrentians will spend part of their day volunteering their time and talents on activities ranging from painting a rock climbing wall at Appleton’s Edison Elementary School to leading interactive projects that incorporate themes of equality, advocacy and the civil rights movement at the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley.
Highlighting the day will be the community celebration of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King at 6:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The annual commemoration of King’s life and legacy is jointly presented by Lawrence University and the community organization Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, with the support of The Post-Crescent, numerous Fox Valley organizations, churches and individuals.
Stansbury Theatre in the adjacent Music-Drama Center will be equipped with a video screen to accommodate overflow crowd should the Chapel reach capacity. The event is free and open to the public and a sign language interpreter will be present.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Breaking the Chains of Injustice.” Social justice icon, scholar and author Dr. Angela Davis will deliver the event’s keynote address.
As a student, writer, scholar and activist/organizer, Davis has devoted much of her life to social justice movements domestically and internationally. Most recently, the Birmingham, Ala., native has focused largely on social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination.
“I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Davis’ call to action for our community at the annual celebration,” said Kathy Flores, the diversity coordinator for the City of Appleton and chairperson of the MLK planning committee. “Many people forget what a radical Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered in his time on this earth. I am confident that Dr. Davis will inspire and challenge us to remember and embrace the true legacy of Dr. King.”
In 1970, Davis was placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She spent 18 months in jail and on trial before being acquitted by a jury. Davis has drawn on those experiences as an author of 10 books, including 2005’s “Abolition Democracy” and 2003’s “Are Prisons Obsolete?” in which she argues for “decarceration.”
Her just released book, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement,” is a collection of essays, speeches and interviews highlighting the relationships among historical and contemporary state violence and oppression in the world. It will be used as the next installment in the Fox Cities’ Books Build Community series.
Davis, who studied at Brandeis University and the Sobornne in Paris, has spent the past 15 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she is Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and of Feminist Studies.
Her career as an educator and scholar has seen Davis teach at San Francisco State University, Mills College, University of California Berkeley, Vassar College and Stanford University, among others.
“I am confident that Dr. Davis will inspire and challenge us to remember and embrace the true legacy of Dr. King.” — Kathy Flores, Appleton diversity coordinator
The community celebration also will recognize Tony Awofeso with the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty Community Leader Award and Ben Vogel with the MLK Educator Award.
A former Outagamie County Board Supervisor, Awofeso is the current president of B.A.B.E.S., Inc., a child abuse prevention program, and former chair of the organization Towards Community: Unity In Diversity (the precursor to Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities). He co-founded African Heritage, Inc. and has served on the boards of the North East Wisconsin Fair Housing Council and CAP Services.
Vogel is the assistant superintendent of school/student services for the Appleton Area School District. He has been an advocate on social injustice issues pervading the school and community cultures with a focus on closing the opportunity gap between African American K-12 and white K-12 students.
Four local students winners of the annual MLK essay contest — Eliana Brenn, Sydni Wanty, Ndemazea Fonkem and Michayla Kading — will read their winning entries as part of the celebration.
The celebration will include music by Anthony Gonzalez, Lawrence student B-Lilly, members of the Lawrence Black Student Union and a spoken word performance by members of Lawrence’s Slam Poetry Club.
AboutLawrenceUniversity Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.
Author and educator Gloria Ladson-Billings will draw parallels between the current youth activism that has emerged across the country and the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. to confront injustice Monday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel as part of the 24th annual community celebration of the American civil rights leader. The event is free and open to the public. A sign language interpreter will be present and a reception follows the program.
As this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration keynote speaker, Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family Chair of Urban Education at UW-Madison, presents “More than a Dreamer: Restoring the Radical Tradition of Martin Luther King Jr.”
The event’s program includes music by Lawrence senior Brienne Colston and the Kimberly High School Choir. Four area students will read their winning submissions from the annual Martin Luther King essay contest. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Fulfilling the Dream of Opportunity.”
The annual commemoration of Dr. King’s life and legacy is jointly presented by Lawrence and the organization Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities (formerly known as Toward Community: Unity in Diversity), with the support of The Post-Crescent, numerous Fox Valley organizations, churches and individuals.
Ladson-Billings says society too often sanitizes and romanticizes its heroes.
“In the case of Martin Luther King Jr., we have fallen in love with the notion of him as a dreamer,” she said. “But King was a man of action and recognized the need to confront injustice not merely dream about its eradication someday.”
A long-standing member of theNAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Ladson-Billlings’ work as an educator has been recognized with numerous awards, including election to the National Academy of Education, the American Anthropological Association’s George and Louise Spindler Award for ongoing contributions in educational anthropology and an honorary degree from Sweden’s Umeå University.
“Reflecting on this year’s theme, fulfilling the dream of opportunity, I can’t help but wonder if this dream will ever be fulfilled,” said Pa Lee Moua, Lawrence’s assistant dean of students for multicultural affairs. “Unfortunately even today, opportunities are not equal for everyone. Individually, and as a society, we all play a part. In the words of Dr. King, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ Change will only happen if we step up, speak up and move forward together. There is no ‘Us’ and ‘Them.’ We complete our communities.”
“…King was a man of action and recognized the need to confront injustice not merely dream about its eradication someday.” — Gloria Ladson-Billings
“During these trying times, we must remember the dream of Dr. King is far from complete,” said Kathy Flores, chair of the MLK Planning Committee and diversity coordinator for the city of Appleton. “We must continue to remember his legacy by not only honoring him, but continuing the work amidst the struggle for many. As we sing ‘Lift Every Voice,’ the Black National Anthem at this year’s celebration, I hope everyone is moved by the words ‘Let us march on till victory is won.’”
The celebration will recognize three community members.
•Nicholas Hoffman, chief curator at the History Museum at the Castle, will receive the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty-MLK Community Leader Award, which honors an individual who has brought different people in the community together in the spirit of Dr. King. Hoffmann has curated exhibitions on those forgotten in history, including immigrants in “Food: Who We Are, What We Eat,” minorities in “Progressive Appleton” and most recently the history of local African Americans in “Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities.”
Part of the “Stone of Hope” exhibition will be on display in Shattuck Hall 163 following the program.
• Amy Xiong, English Language Learner teacher at Kaukauna High School and co-advisor of the KHS Diversity Club, will be the first recipient of the newly established Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educator Award, which honors individuals who educate people in the spirit of Dr. King. Xiong was chosen for her dedication in going above and beyond her assigned duties to ensure all students are given equal, and a wide range of diverse, educational opportunities.
•Rev. Roger Bertschausen, senior minister at Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and founder of the annual MLK Celebration, will be recognized for his 25 years of service with a special legacy award. Bertschausen is relocating to St. Louis later this year.
AboutLawrenceUniversity Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.
Poet, educator and civil rights activist Margaret Rozga discusses the connections between civil rights actions of the 1960s in Milwaukee and social justice activism today at the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr., celebration Monday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public. A sign language interpreter will be present.
Rozga will deliver the keynote address “Dr. King’s Nonviolence, Today’s Nonviolence” at the community event presented by Lawrence University and Toward Community: Unity in Diversity, with the support of The Post-Crescent, numerous Fox Valley organizations, churches, and individuals.
“In a world where actions speak louder than words, what you do is more important than what you say,” said Pa Lee Moua, Lawrence’s assistant dean of students for multicultural affairs. “In one way or another, we will all make a contribution to society. For some it may be minimal, but for others it’s life changing. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is and will always be a hero, a legend, a man who will never be forgotten. His stance on nonviolence was crucial then and is especially crucial now as we move toward the future. Let’s honor and celebrate Dr. King by continuing his legacy through our actions toward each other and our community.”
“Your Actions Inspire Me Deeply”
Rozga’s message is inspired by a 1967 telegram the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King sent to Milwaukee Catholic priest James Groppi that began “Your actions inspire me deeply.” In her remarks, Rozga will reexamine those actions that inspired King, the underlying conditions that led the Milwaukee Youth Council of the NAACP and Fr. Groppi to take action and the ways those actions have been carried forward and continue to inspire young people and social justice advocates today.
“This year marks 45 years since Dr. King was assassinated and our community celebration is both an opportunity to remember his life and work and a challenge to everyone to continue his work today,” said Kathy Flores, chair of the MLK Planning Committee and diversity coordinator for the city of Appleton. “The daily news is filled with stories of injustice relating to race, ethnicity, LGBTQ rights, equality, housing, employment, immigration, poverty, education and others. Dr. King’s legacy for all of us is to continue to fight for equality today and always.”
“Margaret Rozga is an excellent example of someone who honors the memory of Dr. King through her work,” Flores added. “I’m confident she will inspire us to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.”
Professor Emerita of English at UW-Waukesha, Rozga participated in freedom marches and was jailed for fighting for the rights of poor black children in Milwaukee in the 1960s. She chronicled her civil rights movement experiences in the play “March on Milwaukee: A Memoir of the Open Housing Protests.” Her 2009 book of poetry, “200 Nights and One Day,” recounts the history, commitment and passion of activists in Milwaukee who marched on behalf of justice and freedom in the 1960s.
Rozga was honored with the 2007 UW Colleges Chancellor’s award for outstanding achievement in recognition of her efforts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Milwaukee’s open housing marches.
Honoring Diversity Efforts
The MLK celebration also will include the presentation of Toward Community’s annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty Unity in Diversity Award, which honors an area individual who has made great strides in bringing different people in the community together. Kamlesh Vara, a retired preschool teacher and volunteer with the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center, received the award in 2013.
Four area students will be recognized as winners of the annual Martin Luther King essay contest and will read their winning entries.
The evening also will feature performances by local musicians Erica Hamilton, a 2007 Lawrence graduate, Tony Gonzalez, a member of Toward Community and the MLK Planning Committee, and the Appleton West High School Chamber Choir.
AboutLawrenceUniversity Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.